Obama nominee Noah Mamet was confirmed earlier today as the U.S. Senate narrowly voted him in as the new Ambassador to Argentina after a lengthy controversy. The post has been unoccupied for the last 17 months, ever since Mamet’s predecessor, Vilma Martínez, ended her four year stint in the region last July. In the interim, business attaché Kevin Sullivan has been filling the void as a somewhat unpopular acting ambassador.
Although Mamet won the day with 50 votes in favor (mostly Democrat) to 36 votes against (mostly Republican) with 14 abstentions, he has been under heavy scrutiny ever since his nomination over a year ago by bipartisan critics who have a sneaking suspicion that Mamet just can’t cut the mustard.
The skepticism first started over an awkward designation hearing, during which Mamet himself confessed to Florida Senator Mario Rubio that he didn’t actually speak Spanish and had never been to Argentina, although he would love the opportunity. Senators also got steamed up about Mamet’s dubious reference to Argentina as a “U.S. ally”.
But what really pissed off Republicans and Democrats alike was Mamet’s long, history of political affiliation with the ruling party, kicking off at 21 as a driver and bodyguard for would-be Senator Mel Lavine. Although Mamet’s luck certainly has changed, having bundled, according to the Center for Responsible Politics, at least half a million dollars each for both Obama’s 2008 and 2012 election campaigns, it almost looks as though the President were dishing out high-profile ambassadorial jobs as thank-you presents to generous contributors.
Soap opera producer Colleen Bell, who was confirmed alongside Mamet, and fellow bundler George Tsunis were two other Obama nominations which came under fire. Bell was unable to name a single U.S. interest in Hungary while Tsunis believed he would be rubbing shoulders with the Norwegian “President”, while the country actually has a king and a prime minister.
Although this spoils system is only a continuation of a classic American tradition, dating back to the early 19th century, of rewarding political friends and supporters with nice government jobs, it is customary for appointees to have some sort of genuine qualifications.
Mamet, who runs a consulting firm in L.A., California, and boasts a membership of the United States Council of Young Political Leaders, was confirmed as ambassador by the U.S. Senate earlier today. He is expected to arrive in Buenos Aires by January next year.